Buying a home is a stressful venture, and often an expensive one. Except for one homebuyer in Nevada who got the deal of a lifetime. While she signed on for a single-family home, her purchase somehow included an entire swath of properties. The home she was looking at in Sparks, Nevada, was valued at $594,481. But according to the records from the Washoe County (Nevada) Assessor and Washoe County Recorder’s Office, she bought not just her Sparks home but 84 additional house lots and two extra parcels in Toll Brothers’ Stonebrook development just off of Reno.
87 Properties For the Price of One
While this error might seem like a sweet deal, other people had already bought and built on some of the properties involved. In any event, the assessor’s office flagged the transaction and immediately notified the Toll Brothers company about the issue. How did this error even occur? Well, all it took was a simple copy-paste to send lots worth millions of dollars to an unsuspecting buyer.
“It appears Westminster Title out of Las Vegas may have copied and pasted a legal description from another Toll Brothers transfer when preparing (the homebuyer’s) deed for recordation,” said Cori Burke, chief deputy assessor for Washoe County. “Because it was pretty clear a mistake was made, our assessment services division reached out to Westminster Title right away so they could begin working on correcting the chain of title for the 86 properties transferred in error.” 
The Washoe County Assessor’s Office is in charge of updating ownership information after transactions like this one. But this update is based on the legal description instead of the parcel number. This means, that the legal description of this transaction, officially recorded on July 25, stated it includes “lots 1 through 85 … and Common Areas A and B.”
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Returning the Ownership
According to Burke, flagging errors from incorrect legal descriptions actually occur “fairly often,” often thanks to other copy-paste mistakes. “This particular case is just a little more interesting because of the number of lots involved.” To fix this, the homebuyer will have to transfer the title back to the Toll Brothers company. After that, Toll Brothers can transfer the ownership to any new homebuyers through the normal route.
Because other people had already bought some of the lots, they wanted to expedite the process. But that had depended on the cooperation of the homebuyer in Nevada who now owns 87 properties. “I think someone could try to make things difficult,” Burke said. “However, the title company also has the offer and acceptance for the purchase on file so intent is pretty clear. I would think it would be a loser in court and doubt it happens often, if at all.”
But the company needn’t have worried about the homebuyer’s cooperation. “On August 9, 2022, true and rightful ownership was returned through a new document recorded by Westminster Title,” Burke said on August 12. “The Assessor’s Office has updated the ownership on all of the associated parcels.“
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Buying a Home in 2022
“It’s a pretty tough time to be a first-time homebuyer now,” said Mark Zandi of Moody’s Analytics Chief Economist. “High mortgage rates are combining with high house prices, and affordability is being crushed. So, first-time homebuyers are getting locked out of the market. Straight-up buyers are locked in because they’d have to sell the home with a low mortgage rate and buy a home with a higher mortgage rate. And that’s very difficult to do.” 
In June, the U.S. median listing price for single-family homes was $450,000, an increase of 16.9% from June 2021, and an increase of over 31% from June 2020. As a result, mortgage applications had dropped to the lowest amount in 22 years, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA). While some housing experts encourage buyers to wait before purchasing, there’s no certainty the market will improve. So while some people choose to wait, others jump to buy in case the economy becomes worse. But Rachel Luna, the principal of Patriot Title in Houston, advises buyers not to make any hasty decisions because if they need to sell their new properties they can end up losing money.
“Be patient,” Luna said. “What really matters when purchasing a house is your personal finances and long-term economic stability. Ask yourself: Are you debt-free? Do you have an emergency fund for three to six months of expenses? Will your monthly house payment be 25% or less of your monthly take-home pay? If you don’t comfortably meet these qualifications, it wouldn’t matter if the market is in your favor.” 
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- “Copy-paste error results in Nevada homebuyer getting 87 properties for the price of one home.” USA Today. Jason Hidalgo. August 10, 2022
- “Homebuyer Shocked After Purchasing Home and Receiving Entire Neighborhood.” Newsweek. Samantha Berlin. August 10, 2022
- “Housing Market Predictions 2022: When Will Prices Drop?.” Forbes. Natalie Campisi. July 29, 2022